On Writing

There are multiple times each day in which an idea for a blog presents itself. They often come at inopportune moments, though. I used to tell myself I would remember them for later but I rarely did. To remedy this, I’ve taken to carrying multiple pads of paper to scrawl thought segments on (one pad would be too easy!) and I also send myself voice messages if one of the many pads isn’t handy. It’s not a perfect system, by any means, but I am remembering more than I forget now!!

Being constantly given connections for writing balances on a very thin line between healing and falling. My goal is to use my writing to heal myself, and hopefully help others, but at times the subject matter is just too heavy to delve into each day. On the days when it is just too much to write about I feel a tremendous guilt and shame. The fact that I am letting down my daughter keeps screaming through my head. Shouldn’t she be the first thing I do every day? Every time?

I’m reminded by the inner voice, if the wound is deep you can not let it scab for too long or the injury will become infected and start to fester. But, I reply, if I continually pick at it I’ll bleed constantly. A bereaved mother, trying to heal, is walking a razor’s edge. To slide down either side hurts.

The truth is: grieving the loss of a child is exhausting. Another truth: we must take short breaks from the healing work or we will wear ourselves down to nothing. Refilling our well is necessary to do the hard work we know we will face. It’s an ebb and flow.

When I need to step back from writing about my journey of loss, love, and healing, I find some other creative outlet to spend time doing. Sometimes, it’s writing about something else. For nearly two years I wrote my own zombie apocalypse story! My main characters were so far from who I am . . . a female dog trainer who is blind and a 14 year old Indian boy . . . that I don’t have to think about myself or my situation. My mind swirls with ideas and spirals down into back stories for each character! I can lose hours writing imaginary worlds filled with people I create and name. If you’ve never tried it . . . I suggest you do!!

Do you know why I suggest you do? No matter what we are writing . . . we will find healing. The words you put to paper need not be for anyone but yourself. They don’t even have to spelled correctly and your punctuation doesn’t matter. Just let the words flow! Let the the thoughts loose! Make up a character and put her through outlandish situations!! You’ll be surprised what you end up with! Some of what you read, after you’ve written it, will ring true to who you are now. You may find answers to questions you didn’t know you had. Or find questions in things you thought you understood fully. You will come to know yourself deeper and connect with the world around you, wider.

I recently wrote a blog about the century old house I am living in. The Irish part of me is drawn to the history the walls have seen. I imagine the sorrows they have absorbed. Laughter that bounced around in the corners. Little lives that took their first breath here . . . and those that took their last. Growing families and stories unfolded. I desperately wish the walls would whisper the houses secrets to me. Maybe she is but I don’t know how to hear them. I’ll have to figure out how to listen more clearly. Or more deeply.

The first week I was here I saw the bottom edge of a curtain ruffle itself from one side to the other. I was walking from my bedroom into the dining room and to the kitchen. Nowhere near the parlor. The ceiling fan was broken at the time. None of the animals were in the room and all of the windows were closed. I had hung a lace curtain over the rather large window that faces the neighboring home. I glanced in that direction when, from left to right, it appeared someone had run their hand along the bottom seam. It just fluttered out, rippled along, and then laid flat again.
At the time, it unnerved me slightly, but now I’ve come to think maybe it’s one of the home’s former occupants. A sweet lady, from the early 1900’s, admiring the lace and joyful to see the home being returned to its former finery. And, just like that . . . I’d created another character!

In my Google drive I have four unfinished blogs waiting for my attention. Each day that passes, without me opening up the documents and writing, adds anxiety to my already anxious existence. I know I must complete each one. They were important enough to start and they deserve my full attention to reach their completion. Upon waking, I have every intention to do so, but lately I’ve had shitty follow through. I silently yell at myself for not making the ramifications from my daughter’s death a priority. Losing her was the biggest thing that has happened to me. It should be of utmost importance to write about. But I get stuck. A form of writer’s block, I guess.

Today, I told myself: You are going to write. Period. Instead or attacking one of the half finished blogs I started an outline for an idea I have for a novel. A story inspired by the blog I wrote about hidden healing. A novel I am going to write with my cousin, Linda. The outline maps out characters and time periods and important events. As I was writing it . . . dozens of scenarios presented themselves to me and I couldn’t write fast enough!! I thought, it feels so good to be writing about something that has nothing to do with my child dying! (insert tremendous guilt here). I was checking historical dates and meeting new characters as they formed in my head and it was magnificent!!

Then, as I re read what I’d written, I realized (again) I was writing about myself over and over. The words held the questions that I wanted answered. If I re read it again, maybe there are answers I haven’t been able to see.

In the zombie story I mentioned above I have a character named Allison. She is a mother of four who lost her husband in the first wave of dead. The first zombie she encounters happens to be the young daughter of a neighbor. Allison decides to end the child’s unnatural condition and upon doing so, takes the little girl’s bracelet to give to her mother, if she ever sees her again. This starts Allison’s “job” in the apocalypse. She believes her meaning in life is to collect artifacts from those she must kill and return them to the relatives. To let them know their loved one is no longer here, in any condition, and they were treated with mercy at the end.

I find myself in those paragraphs. A part of me exists in Allison’s character. Just as a part of me can be seen in the blind heroine. And, maybe, the Indian boy she is traveling with is me, too.

I can assuage my anxiety by continually realizing that writing, any writing, is working through my grief. Whether it’s a blind woman, a disenchanted psychologist, or a spirit . . . it all stems from my mind, my experiences, and my existence. I still feel bad that I haven’t been able to sit down and tackle one of the blogs. The shame and guilt is still there.

But at least I sat and wrote today.

The secret is to start.

Shifting

The morning I woke up after having the dream was the closest to feeling completely happy I’ve felt in a long time. My daughter didn’t feel eleven years, or another world, away. Her essence clung to everything around me. The warmth of her body hung heavy in the air. It’s as if she had just walked out of the room! I had been in her presence.

Details of the dream were difficult to hold onto at any length. Flashes of images, throughout the day, helped bring them into clearer focus. Over a few hours, I stitched the pieces together into a complete picture. Even remembering I’d been incredulous, during the dream, at being with my daughter again!

A six year old piggy tailed Becca came rushing into the room to see me! A pink and purple puffy jacket squished in my arms as I picked her up into a hug. I held her tight as I kissed her flush face and she giggled! Her sticky little hands held my face and she kissed me!! Somewhere in the dream I asked myself how this could be happening. I pushed it aside and concentrated on the joy of having my child in my arms!

My mother started to pack up Becca’s clothing which signaled to me that my parents trusted me to take care of her again. I don’t know why my child was staying with them but I was elated that I was able to take her home with me. The little voice, that seemed only interested in relaying bad news, told me that this wasn’t real. Not to be too happy because it would all be over soon. As I watched my daughter rushing around gathering her toys I told it to go away. Seeing my daughter so happy, so alive, was amazing and I didn’t want it to end.

But, as dreams always do, it ended.

As I am apt to do, I spent the day ruminating over and picking apart everything that happened in my dream. Why had my parents been caring for my daughter? Why wasn’t she living with me? Becca had been so happy to see me, as if she’d not seen me in a while, how long had we been apart? I’d completely forgotten about her pink and purple jacket . . . why had she been wearing that particular coat? How had I forgotten about it? Why did I remember it now? Had Becca chosen to appear to me as a six year old, and if so, what was her reason? Honestly, I drive myself crazy some days trying to figure things out! I can’t help myself.

My mind whirling with dozens of question I told myself to stop. Out loud I said: “Just stop.”

None of that matters. What matters is that you spent joyous time with your child! You had a beautiful visit with your daughter. A visit that is all too rare. Don’t lose sight of what is important here. So I stopped dissecting dream moments to find hidden meaning and instead put my attention towards the incredible joy in the experience.

To me, though this realization may seem small, it is truly monumental when applied to the entire journey through the aftermath of child loss. The change in perspective from one vantage point to another means a world of difference to the viewer. It’s like looking at the day to appreciate what we can see instead of trying to find what we know is missing.

When our child dies we are plunged into deep mourning. There is not one piece of our world that has not been touched by our loss. To know this truth is to understand why we spend a very long time focusing on the child’s death and not necessarily their life. I don’t believe it is a conscious choice we make to do so. It’s all part of the coming to terms with and eventually accepting that our child has died.

Very simply: we need to celebrate their life instead of only mourning their death. Easier said than done . . . believe me. But, as the years pass, how she died isn’t the first thought that comes to mind. Notice in the first sentence of this paragraph I wrote the world “only” before mourning. We will always mourn. The tragic fact that our child died before us will forever bring a great sense of loss and sadness. However, the beauty in the fact they lived and the memories we carry will begin to present themselves more often. That’s when the shift in perception changes our lives.

This shift can be difficult. It was for me. Being happy felt like a betrayal to my daughter. Still does. Not thinking about the unfairness of her death made me feel as if I was saying her death was ok. I’m not. Her death isn’t ok. How she died, because of someone else’s decision, makes me rage. All the things she missed out on are unacceptable. Some days I won’t be able to think about anything else but how my daughter was cheated. Her twenty three years (and six weeks) held so much more than the split second in which she was killed, though.

For myself, I have to concentrate on how my girl lived, not how she died. Just as in my dream, I need to tell the voice to go away and let me concentrate on the years filled with our life. Often, I repeat it to myself many times a day. It’s easy to slip back into mourning. Expect to slip . . . a lot. I still do and I am in the twelfth year A.D. (After Death) and I expect it to continue. Just don’t get mired there. Our children don’t want our lives to be completely about their deaths.

The life our child lived, and lost, is both an anchor and a balloon for us. On the hardest days the weight of their absence will drag us to the bottom of the ocean. On the best ones, the memories we carry will be balloons that lift us toward the sky.

Let the shift in perception happen. Allow yourself to be lifted more often. Your child will smile with you. And, together you will fly!!

An added note: The photo above was taken by a very dear friend, Kristina, who makes it a priority to put my Becca’s name wherever she visits. This started with people writing Becca’s name in the sand for me and has blossomed into a tradition very near to my heart. I’m blessed to have many different photos of her name around the world. She’s been seen in places she’s never even been!!

 

 

When Time Wobbles

After work today, I met up with my friend, to have a quick lunch. I asked her if she wanted to go to a popular breakfast spot, because we’ve never been, and I thought it would be fun to go somewhere new. She said no because she’d only been there once, with her daughter, before she was killed. I completely understood. I thought to myself, it’s been a very long time since I’ve felt that way about going somewhere. I thought I’d crossed all those bridges over the past ten years. How wrong I was.

Have you ever been in a situation where time seems to slip, back and forth, over itself? So completely believable . . . you forget which day you are really in?

When my boys were little, they loved the pictures that you could tilt one way to see an image, then move it slightly the other way, for a completely different image. To them, it seemed like magic!! The picture changed, so quickly, from one to the other. This afternoon, time wobbled and I was in two different days at once.

As I pulled up to the light, getting ready to take a left into the parking lot, I realized I’d been here before. The snow, which had been falling steadily all day, melted away. In its place, there was a blanket of brightly colored leaves, spread over the concrete. The air around me grew warmer as the time of year clicked back to autumn . . . twenty five years ago.

I pulled my van into a parking space, but when I got out, I was looking at the silver Mazda I used to drive. I shook my head in an attempt to gather my senses. I was doing well . . . until the automatic doors swooshed open and the store was almost exactly as it had been the last time I was there. With a ten year old Becca. That moment tore the breath from my lungs. I should turn around and leave, I thought. But, I didn’t.

It was too much. Tears welled up in my eyes. I couldn’t leave, though. There is something about being in a place where your deceased child has been. Like part of them is still there . . . waiting for you to find it. I couldn’t leave because around every corner I could hear my little girl’s laugh. I could hear her sweet voice, float over the aisles, towards me. Chasing it, I found myself standing in front of the cereals, watching the shimmering memory of my daughter reach for her favorite one. Swinging herself around, her hair fanning out behind her, big eyes begged me to let her get it. I’m so glad I did.

I’m not sure how long I stood there, today. I was trying very hard not to cry. Someone walking past me, looked at me oddly, and I realized I was breathing as if I was in labor. Those short, open mouthed exhalations, that help to work through the pain of giving birth. I didn’t care how I looked. I was standing there, watching my daughter, alive again. It was beautiful heartache.

I walked up and down the aisles, searching for what I needed, and what I needed was my daughter. Just as in life . . . she was one step ahead of me. I caught a glimpse of her sun gold hair just past the pile of apples. I quickly made my way around the islands of fruit but she was already gone. Always moving, just out of my grasp.

I begged her: please wait please wait please wait . . .

I never caught her. I did see my ten year old daughter one more time, in the store, though. She was standing in front of the flowers and smiling at me. With her little hand, she waved, and was gone. Oh sweet girl . . . my heart aches for you, tonight.

I stood in the spot she had just been. I could still feel her. I thought, the last time I was here, I didn’t know the next time, my daughter would be dead. Who knew a simple trip to the grocery store, a quarter of a century ago, would hold such precious memories? We don’t know until much later.

I picked out a bouquet I knew she would love. Colorful, just like her.

I won’t go back to that store again. As I loaded my items onto the conveyor belt, to pay for them, I realized I’d picked up much more than material goods. Sweet memories, that I’d forgotten, were the most important things I could have found. I was reminded of her musical giggle. The scent of sunshine clung to her hair. Her beautiful eyes, looked up at me, full of perfect love.  A gap toothed smile told me she was happy.

She was amazing.

For a few precious minutes . . . my little girl was with me again. And I was complete.

Because We Must

A handful of years back, I had a friend tell me that I always bring up my daughter’s death in conversations. His next statement caused much inner turmoil: It seems you see yourself as a grieving mother before anything else. Did I? Was that wrong to do? Am I wallowing? An attention seeker? Do I want pity? Am I being offensive? Off-putting? Am I completely messing up this grieving thing??

I thought about what he’d said to me. I DID bring it up in a lot of conversations. About that he was right. But, was it inappropriate to do so? I can not tell you how many hours I chased the reasons, and answers, to this question.

Initially, I was hurt by the words. The anger came later.

Was he telling me I needed to stop talking about my daughter’s death? How could he expect me to do that? Did everyone want me to stop talking about Becca? When is the right time to mention my dead child? Does someone need to ask me, “Is one of your children deceased?”, before I bring her up? Is there a handbook of grief protocol I didn’t receive? Not only was I reeling from her absence in my life . . . I now had to remain quiet about it. Maybe he was right, maybe I shouldn’t bring it up in polite social interactions. Screw that.

Then the righteous anger came. Yeah, so what, I DO bring her death up a lot. F*ck him, he doesn’t know. Who the Hell is he to tell me I talk about her too often! Both of his children are alive . . . so he can take his observation and shove it. What I do, what I say, is none of his business. He can f*ck off for all I care!

As the anger dissipated, I started to try to figure out the emotions connected to this situation. First, why did it bother him so much that I did this? Obviously, he felt uncomfortable. He could see the awkward looks on other’s faces as I spoke. Second, why did I feel the compulsion to do this. What he said was true, and after taking the tone of judgement out of it . . . I wanted to know the reason.

Was he uncomfortable because child loss is a terrifying possibility and he didn’t want to think about it? Maybe. The truer answer, probably is, we (read society) don’t handle grief well. It’s foreign because it’s been removed, for the most part, from our life. Years ago, generations ago, death was a part of everyday life. Most families had many children because it was understood some might not make it to adulthood. Child loss was more real, to society as a whole, a hundred years ago. Not so in today’s world.

Does the feeling of awkwardness, in others, stem from our grief being too intimate for them to see? Have we forgotten how to behave when someone else is emotionally hurting? Is our raw pain just too much for outsiders to handle? Yes, yes, and again, yes.

When someone bares themselves to another person, there is vulnerability from both sides. Being vulnerable can be very uncomfortable for many. In our world today, there are so many ways to interact with someone else, that isn’t face to face. We are forgetting how to just “be” with another person. And, as far as the rawness of child loss pain, it can be very overwhelming for those who don’t understand it. Scary, even.

For a while, after my friend made this observation, I tried not to bring up my deceased daughter. I didn’t want others to look at me as if I might be a bit off. But, as I rolled this truth around in my head, I came to realize, there are very real reasons I do this. I needed others to connect with me on this level. I was in a lonely and desolate place. I had to share the pain, share her story, otherwise it remained a silent nightmare. In a world that no longer held her . . . I needed her name to be heard.

The biggest reason, though, was because her death was a monumental life event for me. Think about the huge events that happen to a large number of people: 9/11, the Challenger explosion, any mass shooting. We all gather, in groups, and say, “did you hear?” or “can you believe it?” We share the pain we are all feeling. We need to know we are not in it alone. It’s the same for us. We need a connection. We need validation. We need understanding. We need care.

Becca made me a momma. Her birth completely transformed who I was. It would be foolish for me, or anyone else, to think her death didn’t do the very same thing. Losing Becca changed me at the deepest levels of my being. Of course I am going to talk about it. About her. About my experience on this path. I have no other choice. And, that’s ok.

Let us talk. We need to share. Please . . . listen. Laying ourselves bare, in front of you, is not easy for us, either. Those first months, when we are desperately trying to fit the truth into our hearts, we need to be connected to others. It helps us to accept our new reality. It’s where we start to heal.

We need you.

 

This Is Not Goodbye

“Now I’m the one going ahead . . . I’m not afraid . . . I can be brave, too . . . “ – Beth, Little Women

For a years, I’ve gone over nearly every aspect of losing my child. I imagine there are ones I’ve not thought of yet . . . but I have the rest of my life for them to find me. I’ve healed in some ways, not completely (never completely) and there are others which I’ve not inspected too closely. Simply, I’m not sure I will survive them. Yet, they stay visible in my peripheral vision . . . waiting their turn. This one, the one I’m attempting to write about, has been heavy on my heart since the moment I knew my daughter was dead.

Each detail of that night is like an autumn leaf that I keep pressed between the pages of the book of our lives. Most are worn from being held, in my hands, multiple times. If I turn to one page, in particular, one I’ve skipped past dozens of times . . . the leaf is in perfect shape. Vivid colors, the veins still strong. The smell brings me right back to the moment my boyfriend stepped out of the back of the police chaplain’s car.

I could tell by the look on his face that the young woman’s body was that of my daughter, Becca. As he held me, he told me they had allowed him to kiss her still warm forehead. I kept screaming, “I need to help her . . . I need to help her!” Later, he told me her spirit had ridden back with him in the car. I believe him. I asked him what she looked like. He answered, confused . . . lost.

When I think about this, anguish rises in soul and I can’t help but think I failed her at the most important time of her life. The end.

Mothers teach their children about life. I wasn’t given the chance to help her through her death.

When I took Becca to school, the first day of kindergarten, she and I both cried. She didn’t want me to leave and I didn’t want to go. But, I knew at the end of the day, she’d be home again. I could talk to her about all the new things. She would know I would be there to pick her up and she could trust that I wouldn’t leave her. Our time apart was more acceptable because we would hold each other again. This made the separations much easier on both of us.

Her death, I couldn’t hold her after and tell her everything was going to be alright. Lately, I’ve found myself wondering what that conversation would have been like.

“Mom, mom . . . what happened?”

“Come here,” I’d say, taking her in my arms, “you were killed in a car crash, honey.”

“But why? Why? How?” she would ask, confused, as I held her close to my chest.

“A drunk driver killed you . . . oh baby, I’m so sorry!”

“What do I do???? Where do I go? Do I have to leave you?? I can’t leave you, momma, the boys, I can’t go. I’m afraid. I don’t know what’s there!”

“I know honey, and I’m so sorry I can’t go with you. I don’t want you to either, but we don’t have a choice, my Becca.”

“But what do I do??? How do I go??? How do I leave you??”

“You have to be brave, sweetie. You have to be a brave girl. I know you can do that. I know you are strong enough to do this. It’s scary, I know, but just like when you went to school . . . I’ll see you again after, I promise.”

“Mommy . . . momma . . . I don’t want to go!!”

“You have to turn around and walk away, honey . . . “ even with these words, neither of us loosens our grip.

I take her face in my hands and look into her beautiful green blue eyes, “You have to go before all of us. I didn’t want it this way . . . but it’s what we have to do right now. I will always be your momma and you will always be my Becca. My only daughter. The one who made me a mother. I know you are scared, I’m scared to be without you . . . but our love will never fade. You are beautiful and smart and strong and brave. I promise I will be there with you one day. We will all be there. The boys will come. We will all be together again, I promise.”

I can feel her head shake slightly in my hands.

“Go now, my Becca, go and wait for us. Be strong. Soar through the heavens. Glide past stars. Dance in the winds that blow around the entire world. Play. Laugh. Visit us when you are lonely. And know, you are always loved. It’s been such a privilege to be your mother . . . you were my first true love, my girl.”

I would gently kiss her forehead and let my hands drop to my side, as my daughter turned away and bravely walked into her heaven.

Past, Present, Future

Four months after losing my daughter . . . a woman, who I considered a good friend, called me. The first words that came out of her mouth ended our friendship.

“Are you done crying yet?”

“Are you (a newly bereaved mother) done crying yet (as if four months was enough to mourn my child’s death).”

The word “yet” was a judgement. She made me feel as if I was taking too long and people were getting impatient with me. She was getting impatient with me. She wanted to know if I was finished. I hung up the phone, but the guilt I felt for not being “farther along” stayed with me for a quite some time. I spent so many wasted moments wondering if I was “doing it right”. In truth, I still have those moments, a decade later.

I’ve come to find . . . many bereaved mothers eventually feel as if they are letting others down with their need to grieve. Not only their need . . . but how they grieve, as well.

In the first days, we have no choice but to grieve openly. Our soul’s screams demand to be heard. The intense pain is all encompassing and there is nothing we can do but be in it. There isn’t a way to keep it contained, even if we try, there just isn’t. That kind of anguish can not be controlled. So don’t expect us to do it. If our grief is too much for you then walk away. We don’t need the added weight upon our overburdened shoulders.

As the months pass, and enough people have shown us (or told us outright) that our grief is getting to be “a bit too much”, we learn to hide it. Cover it with a fake smile or a mumbled “I’m alright” when asked how we are doing. We are becoming masters of illusion as to not upset your world. Or, we stop going out as often, not wanting to see the disappointment from others. It’s easier to be alone with the grief. In solitude, we can be who we are. Grieving mothers. Broken and crying.

I wish I could truly convey how I am doing, some days, so you would understand. I know most bereaved mothers, myself included (usually), wouldn’t wish this pain on any one else. But, oh, there are times when I want a callous person to feel what I am feeling.

Do you remember the movie from the mid 90’s, about a young man who is sensitive and other worldly? There is a scene in which the lead character, Powder, uses his supernatural abilities to try to change a man. Powder grabs the arm of a seasoned hunter and shares with him (telepathically) the agony the deer, he’d just shot, was feeling as it died. There are times when I would give nearly anything to have this ability. A way to immediately put someone where I am every day. Just for a moment.

For a long time (months, maybe years) we put on the face society wants to see, and navigate the world in disguise. We go to work, faking it. We participate in holidays, feeling no joy. We laugh, when we really want to cry. We behave in a way that won’t upset those around us. Because, we’ve learned our grief has an expiration date to outsiders. For others, there is a time limit. And for some ungodly reason, many people don’t have a problem telling us so. As my former friend did after just four months of living without my daughter.

The more time that passes . . . the less likely outsiders are to understand why we are still grieving so deeply. Do they think it’s getting easier? I can assure you . . . it isn’t. Does the passage of years somehow soften the pain from losing my child? No, it doesn’t. If anything, it makes it harder. Every dawn brings me farther from the last time I held my daughter.

There is a heaviness added to my spirit with the passing of each day since Becca was killed. A mother with a living child gathers memories along the way . . . as her child lives life. I carry the moments my child never got a chance to live because someone took her life away. How does one ever stop grieving the loss of a child as life unfolds all around us and we are continually, achingly, aware that our child is missing?

A few weeks ago, I had another friend ask me how I was doing. I was honest. I said, “Shitty. Labor day was the last time my entire family was together, so this holiday makes me very sad.” Their reply: “Hasn’t it been ten years? It should be getting easier.”

I can assure you, it isn’t.

If we are lucky . . . we find our voice and can say, with strength, I’ll forever grieve. I generally try to end my writing with something positive to say to the “outsiders”. But, I just don’t have anything tonight. Instead, I’ll end this bit of writing with words for the grieving mothers.

Grieve. Loudly. Or quietly. With your entire being. Don’t worry about what others think. This is your journey, not theirs. Their child didn’t die, yours did. Be pissed at them for not understanding, it’s natural to be angry. Tell them they are wrong. Or tell them nothing. If you can, explain why they are incorrect. If you can’t, don’t worry about it, it’s not your concern. Cry when you must. Scream at the sky. State your truth, whatever it may be, loudly and with courage. Society needs to learn about what child loss grief is and what it isn’t.

To outsiders, we may look crazed and disheveled. Wild and unkempt. But we don’t care, do we? We are beautiful and pure in our grief. Our pain makes us glow with an inner fire and strength. We have been remade from the inside. Our soul was ripped open and we’ve found the truest parts of ourselves. Make no mistake, though we may seem weak in others eyes, we are stronger than they will ever know. We are warriors and we will lead the way.

When you get to the point in your healing, when you can be authentically who you are at that moment, and you make yourself known to the world . . . you make the path, for the grieving mother behind you, easier to traverse. You change the world.

In Her Presence

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the presence of my daughter around me. Tonight, I think, my soul was peaceful enough to allow her essence to reach mine. And, I felt complete.

The first year after Becca’s death I had dreams, which I now know were visits, from my recently deceased child. One of them, in particular, made my heart hurt even more than it always did. My daughter showed me how much energy it takes for their spirits to visit ours, especially when they are newly crossed to the other side.

In the beginning of the dream, she seemed full of light, her joyful self. As it progressed, though, she dimmed. Her colors became washed out. Curled up, she was exhausted, and very weakly, she explained that the energy she had to concentrate just to reach me shut her soul down for a while. I felt horrible at the thought of causing her more pain, more sadness, because I selfishly wanted her to visit me every night. I remember I kept telling her how sorry I was. Before she evaporated, she told me that even though I couldn’t see her . . . she would always be just on the other side.

Even, she explained, when she learned how to travel through the universe, she’d still be next to me.

Tonight, I know she was here. She’s still here, but for a moment, I could smell her. I could feel her.

When her scent enveloped me, I simply said, “Hello, my Becca”. And I smiled. I placed my hand, palm up, on the couch next to me and I felt a warmth solidness brush my skin. My daughter touched me. I touched her.

The moments before her appearance, I was sitting on the couch, with Cecily next to me. For those of you who don’t know . . . Cecily is my black lab shepherd mix. Near my feet was my other dog, Pepi. Under the huge window, Walter the cat, was on his back, his feet up in the air, relaxing. I was watching the moths fly around the light at the edge of my covered patio. I thought, they seem to be dancing. Light tinkling came from the half dozen wind chimes hanging just beyond my door. Past the edge of the patio, across a narrow dirt path, lay the dark woods. I was taking stock of how grateful I am at this moment. I thought, “I’m happy”. My animals surrounding me, nature everywhere I could see, I felt content. Almost everything was right with my world. Almost.

That’s the caveat grieving mothers often feel they must express when acknowledging joy in their lives. Yesterday, I even said to my sons, “I’m as happy as I can be without Becca.”. That meant a lot to them. It means just as much to me. But, that’s an different blog, back to this part of my story.

Immediately, after I thought how content I was, my mind snapped to, “I wish Becca was here, then it would be perfect.” And then, she was. I thought, I think I feel her presence. At the same time, her smell washed over me. Not the Victoria Secret perfume she loved, but the smell that clung to her when she came rushing through the door as a child after a summer’s day of play. Sunshine and innocence. The scent of her laughter warmed my skin. She was tangible. Touchable. So, I lay my hand down and felt her pudgy little girl fingers touch my own. The moment was perfect. For a minute, my world was completely as it should be. Then she was gone.

The past six months have been full for me. Both, with wonderful things, as well as difficult ones. All the “noise” has kept my soul from being still. Like static on a radio station. I believe the chaos, that had been in my life, prevented me from being able to receive the gift of her presence. Whether it’s good or bad, continual activity seems to interfere with souls coming together. The signs of their presence can be so very small . . . if we are distracted by the minutiae of every day life, we might miss them.

When my soul is at ease . . . it’s more open, and able, to connect on levels that have little to do with ugliness of life. Pain, it seems, is a part of every soul’s journey. Yet, it brings gifts with it’s arrival. Not everyone loses a child, but none of us get through life without pain disrupting it’s flow. It is the human condition. Joy and pain.

Tonight, I was blessed to feel utter joy. Blessed to feel my daughter, again. Has she learned how to visit me without it depleting her entirely? Have I been too busy, too distracted, to feel her presence? Did the planets, in my world, have to align in order to open the path? I don’t know. Maybe the right amount, in my life, is calm enough to allow the meeting. My peace was her beacon.

So, as I write this, I’m happy. Tears are streaming down my face. All of the animals are within touching distance from me. The moths are still dancing. The leaves, caught at the edge of the light, sway back and forth.

And, the wind chimes sound like my little girl’s laugh.

I love you, my Becca.